Killing Them With Kindness
by Brandon Petersen
It was a team headlined by Vance Jackson, who now suits up for UConn, and Brendan Bailey, now a freshman at Marquette, but when head coach Clayton Williams stood before his team after an uncharacteristic defeat in Milwaukee in the summer of 2015 and asked who the leader of his squad was, all fingers pointed toward Evan Battey.
Battey (6-feet, 7-inches, 290 pounds), a bruising power forward — with guard skills — as he’ll happily fill you in on, was a call-up to the 17U squad that summer, had no offers at the time, and had been with the group just a couple of tournaments prior to Milwaukee.
“Everybody said my name, which didn’t surprise me,” Battey said. “But it shocked me a little bit because I was the youngest kid on the team.”
Because of his trademark ear-to-ear grin, and his bigger-than-life personality, Battey is the straw that stirs the drink — loving to laugh and to make others laugh — and he believes that light-hearted approach aids in the mission of leadership.
“As a captain I have learned that your team is going to look to you for leadership when it is going through the rough,” Battey said.
But while he aims to keep the mood positive off the court, as with many world-class athletes, there are two sides to the coin.
On the court, Battey is a snarling beast of a basketball player, unguardable at times, because of his unique balance of physicality and skill.
Last summer, playing alongside Donnie Tillman, a highly-touted small forward out of Findlay Prep, Battey proved to the recruiting world what the hype was all about. The one-two combo battered it’s way deep into the Adidas Summer Championships before being ousted in a last-second, overtime loss to Team Loaded VA.
Battey dominated the boards, frustrating opponents with his incredible put-back prowess, and won time and again on fifty-fifties, the foul war, taking and making good shots, and wreaking havoc on defense.
“Donnie brought the same excitement to the game,” Battey said. “Our connection was something special on and off the court. (That run) confirmed with myself that I have that dog in me.
“I don’t care if a guy is bigger, faster or stronger, he still has to go through me.”
Battey claimed a handful of big-name Division I suitors throughout the summer, but it wasn’t until a trip to Boulder, Colorado, with an old friend and Dream Vision teammate, that he made his decision.
“Colorado has some huge things in store,” Battey said. “And ‘Huge’ is an understatement.”
Battey committed to Colorado on his birthday, which coincided with the commitment of Tyler Bey, who played on the same Dream Vision squad that Battey led in 2015, and D’Shawn Schwartz, the third player joining Battey and Bey on the recruiting trip.
Not surprisingly, Battey says he’s already forged a bond with his future teammates at Colorado.
“TBey going to CU is huge, because we already have that chemistry,” Battey said. “They plan to use me to stretch the floor at the four-spot and also get some in on the post.
“Kind of be a Draymond Green type.”
Many have placed the highest of expectations on Battey’s shoulders, including longtime NBA center Olden Polynice, the head coach of Dream Vision’s 16U squad, who has said the stretch big has all the tools it takes to make it to the league.
Battey has never backed down from the expectations others place on him, and for good reason, but he is also an introspective type, and is both cognizant and appreciative of those who have made a difference in his journey.
“Coach Ty (Nichols) at Sierra Canyon taught me how to play the right way,” Battey said. “Coach (Manasa) Chanaiwa at LACES let me go through the ups and downs at a young age.
“Coach Clay is probably the main reason my recruiting picked up the way it has. He really goes all out for his players.”
But one coach in Battey’s life has gone even further.
Kenny Franklin, father of Battey’s best friend, Myles Franklin, and the head trainer for Dream Vision, has welcomed Battey into his home for almost the entirety of his life.
“Coach Kenny has been developing me since I was nine years old,” Battey said. “He’s been giving me all types of perimeter skills.”
And much more.
“He is like a second dad,” Battey said. “He always takes me in when I need a place to stay, or when we have games or workouts. I basically grew up in their house. They mean the world to me.”
Battey and Myles Franklin, who recently committed to Northeastern, both play for Villa Park High School, and have been playing together since the 4th grade.
“Myles is literally my brother,” Battey said. “There is just no other way to describe it.”
Julien Franklin, another highly-touted Division I recruit, has been under Battey’s wing since he was just six years old, and while the Franklin’s have played a pivotal role in his basketball framework, Battey credits his parents in developing his leadership skills.
“My dad (Earl Battey), taught me to treat others every day the way I want to be treated,” Battey said. “That’s why I’m always so energetic when I talk to people.
“My mom (Rosalind Lewis) tells me to never stop smiling. She hates when I don’t smile, she’s says, ‘It’s just not me.’”
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail email@example.com.